Giving to Receive: What Legacy Will You Leave?

Have you accepted yet that you're going to die? Have you? Honestly? We've been doing it for thousands of years but, for some reason, most of us won't figure out how to deal with it until it's too late. This is something every one of us has in common, but in the short game of life, it's the elephant in the room.

We're all here trying to learn to live fulfilling, financially independent lives and if we're going to be successful at it before we go, I think this throat-clearing, eye-averting topic must be addressed. We're running out of time.

This is not about getting you to learn about life insurance or writing a bulletproof will. This is about our legacies.

What will you leave behind?
During this Thanksgiving season, I have a whole lot to be thankful for. My basic needs have always been met: I've been clothed, fed, and sheltered since the day I was born. I have a loving and supportive family that helped me graduate from college without any debt. I found a good job that pays well, and I'm able to save for some big financial goals. There's a whole list of people who gave selflessly to me to make that happen. Now, it's my honor and duty to return the favor.

When you die, everything you owned, everything you did — it all becomes immediately useless if it didn't bring value and joy to others. Your legacy is all that matters. It's the one and only thing that lives on once you're gone. Creating a legacy of joy and value is not necessarily a difficult task, but in the busy lives we lead of oftentimes conflicting demands, it's easy to forget.

I like to compare it to making my bed. When I do it, it only takes a moment and I feel great about it afterwords, but with everything else on my mind in the morning, it often gets forgotten. Once I remember to do it a few times in a row, it's practically a habit.

Whatever you do, don't forget to make your bed.

We're all connected
Many of us on a path to financial independence like to think of ourselves as highly responsible, accountable, reliable, and independent. I know I do.

Maybe you've come from humble beginnings and are now on a path to financial abundance. Maybe you've inherited a windfall and you're proud of yourself for learning the skills it will take to maintain it for generations to come. Perhaps you're simply trying to learn to live on as little money as possible. Whatever your situation, we all share these feelings.

There's a minor problem with this description, though. We're not independent. Even once we've reached complete financial enlightenment, we still can't exist on our own.  Society just doesn't work like that.  We will always depend on others to build and maintain any lifestyle we come to enjoy. We can't do it on our own. We're interconnected and there's no way around it.

Money or relationships?
We can talk all day about which things are worth owning or doing in life, but what I've recently realized is that there is only one question that I need to answer to decide if what I do will produce lasting value for me: Is this going to provide value to anyone else?

This can be a tough question to answer, and even tougher to follow through on. I was raised to be self-reliant and do anything I could to get ahead. This logic can seem counter-intuitive when you've lived your whole life in that mindset. Please know that it's not. I used to believe that it was money that sustained me, but it isn't. Relationships do.

It's taken a long time to realize, but the best way for me to get ahead in life — financially or otherwise — is to constantly provide value to others. When I go to great lengths to take care of others, they seem to go to great lengths to take care of me.

    • If you have a traditional job, this could mean always finding ways to make your boss look good. If you're afraid that he will take all the credit and leave you in the dust, don't be. Hacks can only fake it for so long, and true talent always stands out in the end.

 

  • If you're self-employed, this might mean giving everything you've got to your clients. You might be scared that you'll work yourself to death only to lose them to a competitor with a cheaper price. Forget about that. Some will leave, but more will stay — many more will come. The ones that left probably weren't a good fit, anyway.

In my relationship with my girlfriend, I know that if I want to be loved like never before, all I have to do is love her like never before. Life is all about give and take relationships; there are no secrets or shortcuts. Give much and much will be given to you.

This kind of approach, especially when applied to personal finance, can be hard to grasp. It requires faith that the effort that you put out will be given back to you. There are no charts, graphs, or Excel spreadsheets that you can make to show how your investment is doing. Logic and reason can break down from time to time. A little bit of patience and faith can take you so far, though.

This isn't too unlike purchasing a long-term retirement investment.  You do the research you can and make a decision based on your values. One year, it may be up; another, it could be down. You might get confused and not fully understand what's going on, but sure enough, you stay the course and, years later, it's there to provide for you when you really need it.

But what about all the folks who just lost their retirement nest-egg to the market crash last year? Diversity is just as important to your legacy as it is to your your stock portfolio. Reaching out to give to and help others in your entire sphere of influence is a good way to ensure you get back in all the areas of life that you need. It's a model of delayed gratification. Value must be given now to be received in the future.

It's not about the money
If you're worried that you can't afford to help everyone you'd like to, take a second to think about other ways that you can provide value to your friends or family. My guess is that money is not the solution to most of the problems that you can help them with. There are at least three tools that anyone can use when giving:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Social resources

All three can be very effective, and if you've got more of one to offer than another, focus your efforts there.

Do you have a friend that just needs a hand with something and you could spare the time to help? Just being there can make all the difference to someone. Maybe a family member needs some help with a problem that you can't solve, but one of your friends with some experience could. Help make the connection.

We're all trying to get to the top of the pile, but ask anyone who's already made it and they'll likely tell you — it's lonely up there.  Why not do what you can to bring some friends along?

What unique opportunity do you have to offer value to the world? Who's given you something to be thankful for? What legacy do you want to leave?

Hands photo by Batega. Help photo by Ivanatm.

More about...Giving, Planning

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
46 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sudip Ghosh
Sudip Ghosh
10 years ago

Excellent post! The part that stood out for me was “Diversity is just as important to your legacy as it is to your your stock portfolio.” Earlier, I would invest most of my time and efforts to help add value to one individual’s life, and if that person did not appreciate my efforts I would be disappointed. Now I realize that the best way to impact others’ lives is to positively impact as many people as possible, and use the energy that comes from those relationships to help out even more people that we care about.

Craig Ford
Craig Ford
10 years ago

Tyler,
I like that you approach this discussion from the perspective of a legacy. I know that sometimes I get so distracted by the pressing and the immediate that I forget to consider the long term impact of my choices. Thanks for the reminder to look at the bigger picture.

Writers Coin
Writers Coin
10 years ago

This is one of those things I start really thinking about when I picture myself having a kid. But for now it’s very hard to overcome the here and now, the drive to boost one’s career, etc.

Being selfish is a lot easier. For now, anyway.

Cory
Cory
10 years ago

“Your legacy is all that matters”
I have to challenge this underlying assumption. Putting what other people think about you above what you think and feel about yourself is not necessarily the best model.

Mrs. Money
Mrs. Money
10 years ago

I am one who would much rather leave an emotional impact on someone’s life than leave someone money. I think it’s much more valuable. 🙂 Good to see you here, Tyler!

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
10 years ago

I really respect this post, or I should say Tyler’s approach to life. My favorite part is the principle of always providing value to others, whether financially, socially or emotionally. My biggest life-lesson learned here is that the value has to be on the recipient’s terms, not just my own terms or my notion of what I think they SHOULD find valuable. In a deeply happy marriage now after two failed ones, I’d offer some notes what it’s taken to have that: http://www.diamondcutlife.org/diamond-cut-sustainable-marriage/. And as a former entrepreneur of 12 years I’d offer up my lessons learned in that arena… Read more »

Joseph
Joseph
10 years ago

I’m not a deeply religious person but certain themes are pretty universal it seems. “You reap what you sow.” and “Treat others like you want to be treated.” seem relevant here.

I enjoy posts like these because they stop and make you think about things from a slightly different perspective. However, in the end there really are a handful of ideas, that if we could truly internalize, would serve us well our entire life.

Alexandra
Alexandra
10 years ago

Too many all-encompassing statements that I disagree with. “Your legacy is all that matters.” I would prefer to live in the now and not worry about what is left behind. A little personal enjoyment every once in awhile for me and just me alone is a right I just refuse to give up. “…the best way for me to get ahead in life – financially or otherwise – is to constantly provide value to others.” Well, I happen to know a few people in my life who are takers. They will suck you dry if you let them and never… Read more »

Ben
Ben
10 years ago

Three resources: time, money, and people.

Of those, only time is finite.

With that said, it’s how efficiently and towards what ends (people, religion, etc. or money) we allocate our time that is important.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

I’m with Cory and Alexandra – I couldn’t disagree more with the statement “your legacy is all that matters”. When I die, I won’t care if everything I owned or did becomes useless. I’ll be dead, after all. I have an innate distrust of anyone who spends their entire lives worried about how other people think of them. Also, in most cases your legacy won’t last beyond a couple of generations anyway. How many people can name all 8 or their great-grandparents? I certainly can’t. I have better things to think about than my legacy.

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

Absolutely! I try very hard to remain focused on the relationships in my life and draw my motivation from them. This applies to everything from work to family to charitable activities. It’s all about the people that we impact with our lives.

This was also the motivation behind starting my own blog. I want to help others be proactive with their relationships and ultimately build an extraordinary marriage. If I help one couple achieve this, then my efforts have paid off.

Tyler Tervooren
Tyler Tervooren
10 years ago

Craig (#2), Thanks. It’s easy to get lost in the details. Stepping back can really provide perspective. Writers Coin (#3), It certainly is easier to be selfish. You don’t have to wait to make a grand gesture, though. You can start whenever and however you want. The starting part is all that matters. Alexandra (#8) & Russ (#10), Thanks for the feedback. It looks like you hold a different perspective than me, which is great. I’d like to point out, though, that I’m not trying to tell anyone that they should give up all personal aspirations and only focus on… Read more »

Chickybeth
Chickybeth
10 years ago

Although I enjoyed the writing style of this post, I could not disagree more with this statement :”the best way for me to get ahead in life – financially or otherwise – is to constantly provide value to others” I used to believe this when I was younger because that is what I was always taught – give of yourself selflessly, and you will be repaid in kindness. However, as I have gotten older and especially this year, I have come to see first hand that I give of myself, time, money, love, friendship, helpfulness, gifts, etc. always and very… Read more »

Holly
Holly
10 years ago

Sounds like those who are of the ‘me-first’ mindset have had some pretty lousy friends (or family members). Yes, I feel that too many people fall into the takers circle. But what I liked about Tyler’s post is how we can still be grateful that we are here; just the fact that our parent(s)/grandparents/guardians were able to help us get to this point should deserve at least an iota of respect. Think of the little gestures of kindness and how much joy they bring; sometimes just a smile from the lady/gentlemen holding the door for you will brighten your mood.… Read more »

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

@Tyler

“I’m just suggesting that you look for opportunities in the things you do to also provide value to others.”

I agree with this part. It’s really the first 2 sections that I disagree with – after that, what you write contains a lot of sense.

Shane
Shane
10 years ago

Yes, we do need to nurture our relationships while we still can. Sometimes we tend to focus our time and life energy more on making money, while all our relationships fade away.

Bon
Bon
10 years ago

Great post, love the sentiment. A couple of thoughts: first, I know it sounds trite but although people should prioritize taking care of and being happy with themselves – a lot of times giving (in a variety of ways) to others is what can make one feel happy and find meaning.

On the flip side, if you are not so worried about what you leave/give to others, I believe that you can leave a legacy of being a confident and joyful person– which is a blessing and something others can model to find confidence and peace in themselves

RMS
RMS
10 years ago

Tyler – what a beautiful article! I love the way you right and your views on life. My brother seems to get himself into financial troubles more frequently than I would like to. The first two times I helped him out financially because that was the way my father taught us to show that we care. This last time I had to stop helping him financially because I care about his future and his capability of being independent. I realized that if I don’t change how I help him, he is never going to change and he will be a… Read more »

Clint
Clint
10 years ago

I second the statement that some of you “me first-ers” seem to have some really awful friends and family. I would challenge you to consider however, if everything you claimed to “give” was given from a place of joy, love and abundance. Or did you “give” with the full expectation (and intention) of being screwed over in return? Did you in some way enjoy that result because it proved something you always believed about human nature? Also, I challenge you to consider what it is we value about the following people: 1. Abraham Lincoln 2. Mother Theresa 3. Jesus 4.… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
10 years ago

This post is a bit of a mess. It starts off talking about death and legacy, move on to talking about relationships being more important than money, delves into long-term investments for a bit, and then seems to finish off with charity. Should this have been four separate posts, each with a little more explanation as to what you’re trying to say? As it is, whatever point you’re trying to make has been lost on me. I was going to disagree with the “all that matters is your legacy” statement, too, but by the end of the post, I wasn’t… Read more »

Suntydt
Suntydt
10 years ago

The underlying importance here is to give thought to your passing. A year ago I almost passed away at 42 yrs. old. Never thinking I would die any time soon. No will, no diary of thoughts, divorced and seperate from my kids.

My kids… they would have known little of me being as young as they are. I certainly would have not left them a legacy, or cash, or anything else for that matter.

So the bottom line is leave somthing, anything. Be remembered however you WANT to be remembered.

La BellaDonna
La BellaDonna
10 years ago

At least right now, I can handle only the small things. So: I am working on being healthy enough so that I can clean out and organize my house, not so that it “frees up my living space” or anything else like that; no, my goal is to de-junk and de-clutter my house so that it doesn’t become an additional burden to my family after I die. And it COULD, easily; I haven’t unpacked since my move. And while it would certainly be a choice for my family to just chuck everything still in boxes, I’d rather they didn’t: there… Read more »

Tyler Tervooren
Tyler Tervooren
10 years ago

Chickybeth, I’m sorry you’ve had such poor luck. I wouldn’t want anyone to give all of themselves only to find themselves in dire straits. It’s tough to manage our expectations or return when we give, but I think it’s necessary in order to live happily. Holly, Thanks. That sums it up nicely. Bon, That’s a great point. Don’t worry about what or how much you’re doing. Be confident in yourself that your efforts appreciated. I like it. RMS, As much as it sucks, sometimes the best thing we can give someone is nothing at all. It sounds like your brother… Read more »

Oleg Mokhov
Oleg Mokhov
10 years ago

Hey Tyler, Create something you can be proud of – something that gives value to people and you enjoy doing. That’s the ultimate way to leave a positive legacy. Chris Guillebeau also wrote about creating a legacy project. I like how you pointed out that money is only one of the ways that people can give to others. Some believe that monetary donations is the only way to be charitable, or that they need a lot of money to set up a foundation or charity or something. If you spend your time, energy, and skills to build a business or… Read more »

Victoria
Victoria
10 years ago

@ Alexandara #8 I am thinking that the trips provided value to others via the fact that you spent money buying the airticket, you paid for food, accomodation etc wherever you went. I have come to beleive that it doesn’t have to be the conventional value providing themes that we constantly see or hear about. Even by spending your money at the mall, you are proiding value because someone is gonna be paid a wage (retail person), the factory worker who sewed the buttons onto the dress you bought etc. Sometimes we have to think of the ripple effect. It’s… Read more »

John DeFlumeri Jr
John DeFlumeri Jr
10 years ago

I’m taking what you said, “Give much and much will be given to you” as a motto. Thank You!

John DeFlumeri Jr

S Patel
S Patel
10 years ago

Best post I’ve read so far. Well said, really wonderful – thank you for providing faith.

Josh Wheeler
Josh Wheeler
10 years ago

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure– pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38 NASB)

Often people do respond to us in the way we respond to them… but what if they don’t. Then should we still act selflessly for the benefit of others? Is our only motivation for “selfless” behavior a selfish (and might I add pointless) attempt at “preserving our legacy”?

E
E
10 years ago

This is an awesome post, thank you. I’ve been thinking a lot the last few years about the idea of providing value. It’s not about getting ahead, or worrying about what people will think or whether you’ll be remembered. It’s about doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. Why are we here if not to leave something of value behind? (I do think fabulous vacations are part of this. When you see more of the world you expand yourself; you have more to offer.) Just in the last week I found something that could be my access… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
10 years ago

Maybe it’s just me (probably) but I don’t read this piece as saying You, the Specific Person, must try to be remembered after you die, or that you should give everything away, or any of the conventional definitions of “legacy.” Some people may remember me after I die, because of work I’ve created that they will continue to use and/or enjoy. I just don’t want anyone to remember me with regret or scorn or animus. What I take from this is, strive to be, as a person, a net benefit to the world. Try to leave each person and each… Read more »

Gary
Gary
10 years ago

I think this is a great post and agree there is more than just legacy to look at.

As a self employed business owner I am constantly looking at ways other than through financial means to give back in all areas of my life. I feel fortunate to able to have a loving family and business that does well.

Thanks again for this insightful post

EK
EK
10 years ago

I found the statement “Your legacy is all that matters” a little off-base, myself. It can be taken a number of different ways, I suppose, and I’m sure I would agree with the underlying principle that improving the world around you is a good thing. However, it feels just a little bit too close to saying ‘what you do when you’re alive isn’t a big deal; do something so people will remember your name positively when you pass on’. And that I would have to disagree with. I’m not overly concerned with my legacy in that sense; I’m far more… Read more »

Tomas Stonkus
Tomas Stonkus
10 years ago

Giving is the only way of getting. Nothing in life is free. If you want to receive in abundance, you have to give in abundance.

Money is just the expression of the value that we provide to others. Money has not real value on its own. It is only what me assign it. The more you give the more you get.

Best,
Tomas

David/yourfinances101
David/yourfinances101
10 years ago

I want to leave behing enough money to make my children comfortable, and enough good memeories to last them a lifetime

Annie
Annie
10 years ago

Well. I have no concern to leave a “legacy” – I made the conscious decision to not reproduce. I am fighting the world to keep myself content with the basic components of Maslow’s needs. We all make the decision on how we will survive. I chose to take care of me and the rest of the universe is on their own. I do not mean to come across hard hearted, I have a select number of charities I support and have helped people I love. But to leave a legacy? Sounds “new age” to me, or the person has lots… Read more »

Tyler Tervooren
Tyler Tervooren
10 years ago

Oleg, I agree. If you help in the ways that are really important to you, it’s a lot easier to be enthusiastic about it. No half-assing it! John DeFlumeri Jr, Awesome! That’s a great motto to live by. E, That’s a great goal. Finding a way to incorporate the giving you want to do into part of your every day life at work could be very gratifying. Chacha1, Good point. If you’re reading this post and these comments, you’ve got it pretty dang good compared to most. Don’t take that as something to feel guilty about, but use that knowledge… Read more »

Mike
Mike
10 years ago

I wish my ex thought the same way I the author.

MoneyEnergy
MoneyEnergy
10 years ago

Great thoughts – reading through some of the comments which raise good points I didn’t think of myself while reading the article – makes me think of a few things. “Giving” can take on different forms for men and women as it butts up against different social and cultural expectations for “giving” based on whether you’re male or female (more or less unfortunately or unjustly). I’m thinking of giving that *doesn’t* get rewarded, as well as limited senses of giving – eg., just giving money is one form of giving, sure, but within the perspective shown by this article can… Read more »

Patty - Why Not Start Now?
Patty - Why Not Start Now?
10 years ago

For me, leaving a legacy means that I have lived a value driven life. That I have consciously chosen to make meaning in my life. And yes, contribution and love are meaningful to me, but so are creativity and adventure, and other things as well. So if I focused my entire life only on giving value to others, then I would not have time for other things that give my life meaning, and as a consequence I wouldn’t live up to my definition of legacy. My point is that many of the ideas you’ve written about, such as legacy, giving… Read more »

Cath Lawson
Cath Lawson
10 years ago

Hi Tyler – What an awesome post. It’s true that you’ve got to give to receive in business. But as you say, there are so many aspects of your life where you can apply this rule.

Danielle
Danielle
10 years ago

In response to the criticisms that Tyler is promoting pure selflessness:
I think you can best give of yourself once you recognize and provide for your own needs. Taking care of yourself and concern for others go hand in hand.

Karen
Karen
10 years ago

The statement that “relationships are more important than money” is actually missing something important. Too many young women that I know are eager to sacrifice their careers for their relationship with a man and building a family with him. But the sad fact is at least half of theses marriages will break up, a situation that all-too-often leaves the career-less woman (& their children too) in a very poor financial situation. Instead, I’d propose the following motto: “Take care of your own financial life so you can more effectively take care of others”. Because adults of either gender just can’t… Read more »

Steve in Cambridge, MA
Steve in Cambridge, MA
10 years ago

Since I’m a dividend investor, I plan to bequeath them to my school to use as an annual award to an outstanding student. I figure so long as there are no drastic dividend cuts, it will be a very useful sum of money for a student and may even continue to grow in value year after year.

Sean
Sean
10 years ago

Tyler,

I also agree with the statement the best way to get ahead in life is to constantly provide value to others. Sure people can refute this, but frankly, I think you you are going to be better off if you have this attitude, as opposed to only looking out for yourself. Just my two cents, great post!

Rick Vaughn
Rick Vaughn
10 years ago

Tyler, I really want to believe in all that you wrote but I have a hard time with some of these concepts.

If finding love was a easy as loving no one would be alone? I’m I wrong?

One thing I do agree with you on is that your “legacy is all that matters”.

Deanlaw
Deanlaw
10 years ago

Life is about providing value to others. What we do for ourselves will be forgotten soon after we are gone. To truly leave a legacy that will continue after our lifetimes, we must positively impact the lives of others. From a financial perspective, even those who are not wealthy can create funds that will make a difference in other people’s lives. Setting up a donor advised fund at a local community foundation is simple and inexpensive. Combine that with the proceeds of a life insurance policy and you can provide the means to improve and even completely change someone’s life.… Read more »

shares